Erik ten Hag: Man Utd got away with it but Coventry scare is not ’embarrassment’

By Sports Desk April 21, 2024

Erik Ten Hag insisted he was not embarrassed but admitted Manchester United “got away with it” after edging past Championship Coventry on penalties in their FA Cup semi-final.

The Premier League outfit were given an almighty scare at Wembley on Sunday as the second-tier side fought back from 3-0 down and then had a late extra-time winner disallowed for a marginal offside.

A thrilling contest ended 3-3 after 120 minutes and it was United who ultimately prevailed, 4-2 on spot-kicks, to set up a repeat of last year’s final against rivals Manchester City.

It was another highly unconvincing performance by United – which may have increased the pressure on under-fire manager Ten Hag – but the Dutchman tried to highlight the positives.

Ten Hag said: “I can’t say that word (embarrassment) because, at the end of the day, it’s about the achievement.

“I see the mistakes we make – we can’t look away from it – but it’s not an embarrassment. It’s a huge achievement.

“Even the big team from United, a decade ago, only achieved the final three times. We now have two times in two years. So that’s a good performance.

“I see we can play in very high levels but in the same match we can also go very low. That’s not explainable. It has to do with managing the game.

“I have to teach my players, clearly. We have to do better in such occasions.

“On several occasions we’ve let the result slip away but today we got away with it.”

United had looked to be cruising past an apparently inferior opponent as they opened up a handsome lead with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

Yet the Sky Blues, who are eighth in the Championship, pulled one back through Ellis Simms on 71 minutes and then threw caution to the wind.

Callum O’Hare pulled another back with a deflected strike and Haji Wright sent the game into extra time with a stoppage-time penalty after handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Both sides hit the bar in extra time before Victor Torp thought he had snatched a dramatic winner in the closing minutes, only for VAR to rule Wright fractionally offside in the build-up.

Despite the heartbreaking manner of the loss, Sky Blues manager Mark Robins insisted there was no feeling of injustice.

The former United striker said: “If it’s the right call, it’s the right call. I think he was a toenail offside, which is disappointing. Had he cut his toenail, we wouldn’t be talking about penalties.

“This FA Cup run will be spoken about, certainly in Coventry City circles, for a long, long time.

“Whilst I’m disappointed for everybody, we can’t be too down about it. We’ve gone toe to toe with Manchester United, come back from 3-0 down and almost won it with a fourth, then lost it in a shoot-out, which can happen.

“We performed like Manchester United for that last half-hour and that’s what I’m most proud of.

“This club has been in the doldrums for so long but we’re certainly out of that period. We’ve just got to keep moving it forward, which is why we won’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

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